Flower arrangement is an art which was created and studied in Eastern countries for hundreds of years but it is a comparatively recent development in the Western world. This is an art which is a purely personal one, depending as much on the preferences of the arranger as on any set rules or ideas which have been laid down as guide lines.
Some flower arrangers do follow these rules or guide lines closely, perhaps even to the extent of thinking along the lines of a ‘ Hogarth curve’ for a bunch of daffodils or a ‘crescent curve’ for half a dozen roses. But this seems to me to be a departure from the true essence of flower, which, I think, should express not only the love of the materials being arranged but also the personality and taste of the arranger.
The pleasure and satisfaction that can be obtained froma bowl of flowers would be difficult to express or describe generally, since these must vary with the individual concerned and be involved with his love of flowers and green, growing plants, as well as his reaction to ‘beauty’, which this art is.
The idea that man should not be too far removed from his native earth is not a new one, and in these days of industrial and commercial interest, when the machine seems to take an undue precedence in our lives, arranging flowers in a vase seems to have even more significance than ever before.
This interest develops and widens one’s horizons, especially if one is the fortunate owner of a garden, however small. Then one becomes interested in the flowers and plants, their names and their native habit, their flowering times, foliage, buds and. Nursery gardens, and florists’ shops, gardening catalogues, books written about flowers and their histories, about the plant pioneers who ventured afar and discovered so many exotic plants, paintings of flowers—all become of great interest and value. A walk round a friend’s garden, a random glance at a garden from a train or bus window, or a visit to some of the large estate gardens opened to the public — these too are enriched. To someone who may not previously have thought much about flowers beyond noticing them on sale in a shop window or on a market stall, flower arranging and the various associated interests create a new world. (The wish to reproduce two or three special flowers may lead to a desire to paint in order to do so. This can provide satisfaction of a high order and can sometimes even produce financial reward).
This is not an ‘art’ to be reserved only for a party or. A ‘special occasion’. A few flowers on the kitchen table can be as important in their own way as a full scale dinner party decoration. A good flower arrangement, fortunately, does not depend on the amount of money spent on it, nor on the amount of material used (in fact twenty flowers are not necessarily twice as beautiful as ten). Two or three geranium flowers taken from a plant in a cottage window can, in the right surroundings, be as effective when arranged with suitable foliage (either their own or with contrasting) as many larger and more opulent . We have all seen the charm of buttercups in a blue jug or the brightness of scarlet hips in a copper can, or one Ophelia rose in a specimen vase.
What is essential in flower arrangement is good design, using the right shape and colour of, and considering the surroundings and relating the arrangement to it. Every colour we select in a room, every piece of porcelain, each wallpaper or curtain or cushion—all have their own value, the binding on the cushion or the trimming on the lampshade or the band of gold on a Worcester saucer—all should be chosen to emphasise or harmonise with the general furnishing scheme. In the same way the flower arrangement must be considered; each flower and carefully chosen for size, shape and colour, all in relation to the surroundings. To me a vase of flowers is probably more indicative of the character of the home maker than any other one thing.
Perhaps ‘characteristic’ is the key word when what is produced is the best of its kind and also characteristic of its origin and surroundings.
For instance, to be characteristic in an Oriental arrangement the flowers may stand in a barely furnished room. In the Orient they may be in an alcove, with perhaps a scroll picture as the only other decoration.
I feel strongly that it is largely through learning about other arts that we can hope to present Western ideas on a bowl of flowers as an art.
‘Virgil does not speak of the beauty of ducks… the softness of their voices and their round, black eyes so intelligent, but I should not have known how beautiful they are .. if I had not read Virgil. It is strange that he should have no word about water-lilies, yet he taught me to see their great leathery leaves’. (Heloise and Abelard —trans. George Moore.)